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Your Healthy Family: UCHealth Memorial doctor training others on heart procedure in Japan

Posted at 10:08 AM, Sep 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-27 12:51:13-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — A heart doctor with UCHealth Memorial has spent the last week traveling through Japan. Dr. Brad Mikaelian, a cardiac electrophysiologist is there helping train doctors to perform a heart procedure that's been very successful here in Colorado Springs and around the world.

Dr. Mikaelian says: “There's over 75 countries I think around the world that have approved the Watchman (implant) for use. Over 100,000 patients around the world have had this procedure.”

We've reported on Dr. Mikaelian (WHAT IS A-FIB) and his team's work with the Watchman device on patients (100TH WATCHMAN PERFORMED IN SO COLORADO) with atrial fibrillation (AFib) in southern Colorado. Dr. Mikaelian says, “My colleague at UCHealth - Dr. Jaime Gonzalez - and I have years of experience with this.”

The Watchman helps people with AFib avoid strokes without the patients having to take powerful blood thinners. Of those medications Dr. Mikaelian explains: “Blood-thinning medication prevents clots from forming in the heart that could potentially break loose and go to the brain and cause a stroke. However, many patients who have AFib and who are on blood-thinning medication have problems with them and there's a bunch of different types of issues that can arise.”

The Watchman device was just approved in Japan, where Dr. Mikaelian has been all week to help train doctors and help perform Watchman cases. As it has in southern Colorado, Dr. Mikaelian expects the procedure to have a positive impact in Japan. “Atrial fibrillation is a major problem in Japan, just as it is in the United States. There are even certain factors that may increase the bleeding risks, as well as stroke risk for patients here in Japan. I suspect this is going to be a life-changing and potentially life-saving alternative for a lot of people here, just as it is back home.”

His visit to Japan is part of an exchange program of sorts that Dr. Mikaelian says started with a colleague. “We are very lucky to work with a colleague of ours named Tomo Nagasawa, who is at UCHealth and works in the invasive Cardiology Department. Tomo and his family live in Colorado Springs, but he's originally from Japan. In July there was a group of cardiologists and team members that came to observe us at Memorial Hospital doing some of these Watchman procedures. That group has since been one of, if not the first group to do the Watchman procedure here in Japan. It was through some of those connections that I got the opportunity to come here and train and proctor some of the doctors.”

Dr. Mikaelian says that although the language barrier is big, he is getting by. “I would say that my Japanese language skills are pretty much non-existent. I picked up a few words and phrases and in all seriousness, I did get a lot of help from Tomo before I left. He gave me a few phrases that I probably butcher pretty bad. I'm giving some presentations here to some of the doctors and teams and Tomo actually translated those into Japanese and that's been spectacular and very helpful for me. A number of the doctors here are also fairly fluent in English so that's been helpful. Also, a number of the clinical specialists that work for the company with the Watchman are bilingual as well. It certainly is humbling for me but everyone here has been extremely welcoming, patient, gracious and wonderful hosts.”

Dr. Mikaelian says this chance to travel to Japan and help train doctors there is also making him a better doctor and health care provider. “The opportunity to collaborate with other medical professionals is a great gift in healthcare, and science in general. I certainly hope that I can share my experiences with them here, and I also know I'm learning from them as well. I can think of some technical aspects of the procedure that I have picked up, as well as some tips and tricks for the procedure for imaging for patients beforehand that make the procedure more successful. On a personal level I know that these experiences help me recognize and remind me that humanity, even on the other side of the globe, shares a lot more commonalities than differences.”

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